If the birth control pill is your contraceptive of choice, then you may enjoy a long relationship with the medication. For many women, it isn't unusual to start the pill as a teenager and continue taking it until menopause. If this sounds familiar, then it's crucial to know the weird things that happen to your body if you stay on the pill for years. Fortunately, those "weird" things aren't all bad.
Before diving in, though, it is crucial to note that the pill is a safe and effective birth control method for the vast majority of healthy women. According to Healthline, long-term use of oral contraceptives does not appear to negatively affect the health of most women. In fact, it is not even necessary to take a break from the medications at any point. The pill is generally an effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy.
That said, certain health and lifestyle factors may increase the likelihood of complications from taking birth control pills. For instance, women over the age of 35 who smoke are often advised against taking the birth control pill due to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as explained by the Mayo Clinic. As always, if you have any concerns about the pill's safety and effectiveness in terms of your own health, don't hesitate to speak with a doctor for more individualized medical advice.
In spite of these routine concerns, it's important to keep the benefits of birth control pills in mind as well. Many women report positive side effects from the medication, and there is even evidence to support the idea that birth control pills may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Read on to learn about the weird (but sometimes wonderful) ways oral contraceptives affect the body over time.
1. Acne Effects
Does the pill help a person's skincare routine? According to WebMD, some types of birth control pills are approved by the FDA for acne treatment, and many people have noticed an improvement in skin health while on the medication. In general, fewer flare-ups and less severe acne overall can be anticipated from the pill.
Some people struggle with that tightness in the tummy on the regular. As explained in the website for Fitness, certain birth control pills can cause you to retain fluids and feel bloated. Although this is by no means an effect experienced by all women on the pill, it's worth keeping in mind.
3. Blood Clot Risk Increase
This side effect is rattled off in most every commercial for oral contraceptives. They don't directly cause blood clots, but taking the birth control pill can increase the possibility of developing a blood clot, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance. It's a small risk for the majority of women, but definitely worth investigating if you are concerned.
4. Breast Enlargement
OK, so it sounds like an urban legend, or at best wishful thinking. But as noted in The New York Times, birth control pills may lead to breast enlargement, although the change does not appear to be drastic. But if you happen to notice a change, it may be the pill's doing.
5. Hair Changes
Hormones affect pretty much everything in the body, or so it seems. According to Healthline, taking the pill may lead to a growth of unwanted hair, or even a reduction of hair in some areas of the body. This is probably one of the lesser-known potential effects.
6. Heart Disease Risk Increase
Again, it's crucial to know how your individual medical history may be affected by taking the pill. According to WebMD, the hormones in birth control pills may cause high blood pressure or even a heart attack in some users. If you have any history of heart trouble, discuss healthy birth control options with your doctor.
7. High Blood Pressure Risk Increase
Anyone on the pill should know about this concern. High blood pressure is a potential side effect for most all birth control pills, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. Women who already have high blood pressure may be advised to find a different form of birth control.
8. Irregular Bleeding
A period that runs like clockwork would be nice, but that's out of reach for many women, even those on the pill. Oral contraceptives can cause spotting between periods, as noted in WebMD. It's one of the many common side effects.
9. Libido Decrease
This is one of the more infamous side effects of oral contraceptives. Taking the pill may adversely affect a woman's libido, according to the website for Psychology Today. Studies have provided conflicting information about this effect, but anecdotal evidence suggests it is not an unusual reaction.
10. Liver Problem Potential
Women with hepatitis are often discouraged from taking oral contraceptive pills, as the medication's hormones may affect liver function, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Definitely discuss birth control options with your doctor if any type of liver disease, such as viral hepatitis, has affected you.
11. Migraine Changes
Migraines are terrible for anyone, but sometimes taking the pill can change these symptoms (for better or worse). Some women report an improvement in their headaches after taking the pill, whereas others find that birth control pills make their migraines worse, according to The Migraine Trust. It's kind of a roll of the dice in this case.
Sometimes that dizzy, sick feeling persists through many months of taking birth control. The estrogen content in oral contraceptive pills may irritate the stomach, as noted in Healthline. If the effect is ongoing and bothersome, talk with your doctor about the possibility of switching pills.
13. Ovarian Cancer Risk Decrease
Here is a wonderful benefit of the pill. As noted by the American Cancer Society, taking combination estrogen/progesterone birth control pills for an extended length of time has been shown to lower the risk of ovarian cancer. In fact, there may even be a correlation between how long you take the pill and how greatly your odds of getting cancer decrease.
14. Shorter Periods
For plenty of women, the period's disappearing act is the best part of taking birth control. It's true: over time, the birth control pill can lead to lighter, briefer periods, as explained in Everyday Health. It seems like most everyone appreciates this particular side effect.
15. Skin Pigmentation Alteration
Here's a somewhat surprising effect. According to the International Dermal Institute, a type of hyperpigmentation known as melasma may affect women on oral contraceptives more than the general population. It's all about hormones and how they effect pretty much everything on the body, even skin pigment.
16. Stroke Risk Increase
This may be a concern for some women. Especially when other risk factors are present, women who take the birth control pill may be twice as likely to experience a stroke as their counterparts, according to the American Stroke Association. If you have additional stroke risk factors, such as migraines or clotting disorders, speak with your doctor about the possibility of a stroke.
17. Weight Changes
This may be one of the more contentious potential side effects. Some women report weight gain after taking birth control pills, as noted by Healthline, although studies do not always support the theory of oral contraceptives being the cause. Other factors may play a role in weight gain over time as well.